South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) highways department has been accused of responding inadequately to reports of recurring issues with the new traffic lights at the Aztec West Roundabout in the days before a major fault caused gridlock throughout Bradley Stoke during the morning rush hour on Monday 16th October.
The latest incident follows two earlier ones associated with the same system of lights, in August and September, which led to traffic being trapped in the Aztec West Business Park for up to two hours during the afternoon peak.
Following the first incident in August, which was attributed to a “software issue”, SGC said it would “continue to monitor the operation of the signals” and might “carry out some minor adjustments to ensure that they work as effectively as possible for all users”.
Signs of potential issues with the lights on the Bradley Stoke side of the roundabout were first notified to the council on 5th October, through a FixMyStreet report which warned of the green phase for traffic exiting Bradley Stoke Way lasting just a few seconds. Sunday 15th October saw numerous further reports of a similar nature being registered on the Journal’s Facebook page along with observations that traffic was tailed back to Patchway Brook Roundabout on what is normally the quietest day of the week. Several readers raised concerns about what might happen on the following Monday morning if the issue wasn’t fixed; however, one reader who took the trouble to report it via the council’s traffic signals hotline (0800 854229) was told it was “not classed as urgent”.
Come Monday morning, it soon became clear that the issue hadn’t been resolved and commuters were left to face the consequences, with long tailbacks of near-stationary traffic down both Bradley Stoke Way and Brook Way. One Journal reader reported that it took an hour just to travel between Tesco and Aldi, a distance of less than a mile.
Nothing was heard from the council until after 4pm on Monday, when a bland statement was put out saying:
“We are aware of the issues affecting traffic at the Aztec West roundabout and we apologise for any delay experienced over the weekend and this morning. Our engineers are investigating and will continue until the problem is resolved.”
This was followed by a tweet just before 2pm the following day (Tuesday 17th), saying:
“The fault on Bradley Stoke Way/Aztec West has been identified and fixed. We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.”
The lack of any explanation about what the fault had been only seemed to rub salt into the wounds of those who had been affected by the gridlock. A small selection from the scores of readers’ comments left on our Facebook page is shown below.
Reader comments on the Journal’s Facebook page
Nick W: Same problem I reported nearly two weeks ago on FixMyStreet. Clearly SGC have done jack all about it in that time then!
Jonny T: They’re brand new lights! This should never have happened as should have been sorted yesterday. Clearly too expensive to sort on a Sunday so we therefore have to suffer!! Idiots #southgloscouncil
Simon K: They don’t care and they are not sorry. If the residents of Bradley Stoke were a concern, the problem would have been fixed on Sunday when the council were first informed. Even they would have been aware of the chaos on Monday morning!
Matt H: So good to know that lessons were learned after the “software problem” and associated apology in August.
Steve G: I think council tax payers and commuters deserve a more detailed explanation than a bloody tweet saying “it’s fixed”. How about some accountability to the people that pay their wages!
For scores more reader comments about the October incident, see the following posts on the BSJ Facebook page:
Reacting to readers’ demands for more information from the council, the Journal requested a statement on the various issues raised. The responses received are shown below.
Statement from South Gloucestershire Council
Provide a summary of the issues that have arisen since August
There have been a number of separate issues at Aztec West, however not all are signal related although it is accepted that they affect the traffic around the signalised junctions. We have experienced issues with the timing of signals, road traffic incidents, as well as issues associated with the traffic management and roadworks as part of highway projects. The issue in mid-October was due to a problem with pedestrian motion detectors on the signals at the junction.
We recognise that Aztec West is a key junction on our network and we are carrying out ongoing investigations in to the signal operation and traffic flow. We continue to be in liaison with Highways England and will endeavour to minimise any delays where this is practicable.
Confirm receipt of fault report via FixMyStreet on 5th October
Reports of issues at Aztec West were investigated both by our maintenance contractor and by our own engineers attending through the morning and evening peak hours on a number of separate occasions. On those occasions no fault was found and traffic movements ran for the programmed amount of time.
Confirm receipt of fault reports and response on Sunday 15th October
We can confirm that reports were received on Sunday 15th October and one of our maintenance contractor’s engineers visited the site but the fault was not present at the time of his attendance.
There were a number of site visits made by the council and our contractor during this period.
Confirm receipt of fault reports and response on Monday 16th October
We can confirm that reports were received on the morning of Monday 16th October. Our contractor has admitted that they made errors on this occasion. We are in ongoing dialogue with them regarding their response to this type of fault.
There were a number of site visits made by the council and our contractor during this period to assess the problem and to remedy the issue.
What was the fault? Why did it take so long to investigate and fix it?
The various incidents experienced at Aztec West [over the past three months] are entirely separate.
The October issue was an initially intermittent fault with pedestrian motion detectors at the junction.
Whilst we do what we can during commissioning phases to ensure sites are working to their capacity, it is not uncommon to have these types of issues on new sites. However we do understand the importance of the junction and the impact on commuters, hence our immediate response on both occasions.
Timeline of major incidents at the new Aztec West signals
Wednesday 2nd August 2017: Thousand of workers trapped in the Aztec West Business Park for up to two hours during the pm peak as signals throttle traffic leaving the park to a trickle.
Thursday 21st September: Repeat of the August incident, with delays of up to an hour reported for traffic exiting the park.
Monday 16th October 2017: Signals throttle traffic exiting Bradley Stoke during the am peak, leading to long tailbacks down Bradley Stoke Way and Brook Way.
On a related note, signals on a new pedestrian crossing over the exit slip road from the business park have been criticised by drivers for holding up traffic unnecessarily.
We asked the council for a response, which can be read in the following article:
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 8 & 9). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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